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Fit and Diversity: Explaining Adaptive Evolution

Denis M. Walsh
Philosophy of Science
Vol. 70, No. 2 (April 2003), pp. 280-301
DOI: 10.1086/375468
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/10.1086/375468
Page Count: 22
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Fit and Diversity: Explaining Adaptive Evolution
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Abstract

Abstract According to a prominent view of evolutionary theory, natural selection and the processes of development compete for explanatory relevance. Natural selection theory explains the evolution of biological form insofar as it is adaptive. Development is relevant to the explanation of form only insofar as it constrains the adaptation‐promoting effects of selection. I argue that this view of evolutionary theory is erroneous. I outline an alternative, according to which natural selection explains adaptive evolution by appeal to the statistical structure of populations, and development explains the causes of adaptive evolution at the level of individuals. Only together can a statistical theory of selection and a mechanical theory of development explain why populations of organisms comprise individuals that are adapted to their conditions of existence.

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